“No, I’m fine. Totally safe. I’m at the bottom of the mountain.”
Long pause. “You’re at … you’re at the bottom of the mountain?”
“You rode down the whole f**king mountain? The. Whole. Fucking. Mountain?”
“As much of it as I could. I mean, I’m not all the way at the base, but I’m pretty far down. In my defense, it’s a pretty small mountain.” I hear Luc swear in the background, and Cam finally seems to have the sobs under control. “I’m fine,” I say again. “No problem.”
“You’re an idiot, you know that, right? A total f**king moron.”
“I never claimed differently.”
Another long pause. Then, “So, was it front?”
I relax at the question, knowing I’m out of the woods. “So f**king front, man. You wouldn’t even believe it.”
“Was the camera on?”
“What? No. I never turned it on.”
“I did, right before I gave it to you.”
“Seriously?” I glance down at the camera still strapped to my chest. Sure enough, the little green power light is lit.
I stare at it for a second, trying to decide how I feel about that. Sure, part of me thinks it’d be wicked to have the ride recorded, but another part wants to keep it for myself. In some ways, what happened on the way down feels too intensely private to share with anyone.
Except Luc, Ash, and Cam deserve to see what happened. After what they’ve spent the last few minutes imagining, I figure I owe them that much. Showing them doesn’t mean it has to be posted on the website or YouTube. It could just be for us.
“Yeah, I got the footage.”
“Excellent! I want to see every second of it.”
“I’ve got a question, though.”
“How the hell are you going to get back up here? I don’t think the snowmobile is going to make it down the route you took, and our trail doesn’t lead anywhere close to that far down the mountain.”
“Yeah, I was just thinking about that.”
“And what did you decide?”
Once I switch the phone to the local GPS/hiking app, it only takes a minute to find what I’m looking for. “I’m only about a three-hour hike from Lost Canyon Resort. You can pick me up there when you’re done boarding for the day.”
“Seriously? You’re going to hike through the mountains for three hours after that run?”
I think of all the shit cluttering up my head—April, my mom, the upcoming competitions, Ophelia. I don’t want to think about any of it, don’t want to deal with any of it. And since I can’t drink and I can’t screw, I might as well put in some hard physical labor. If I’m exhausted, then maybe I can actually fall asleep without being drunk off my ass.
“I think so.”
“All right.” He sounds doubtful, but he’s not going to argue. “Just call us when you get to the lodge so we know we don’t have to send the ski patrol out after your ass.”
“One time. One f**king time and you’ve never let me forget it.”
“And I never will.” There’s a long pause, and I’m about to hang up when he says, “Don’t do anything stupid, okay?”
I try to play it off. “Me? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yeah. Right.” He pauses for a moment, and I hear him talking to one of the others in the background. When he comes back on, he says, “Cam says to tell you you’re an asshole.”
It’s my turn to laugh. “I never pretended to be anything but. You’re the ones who keep thinking there’s something else there.”
“Hey, Ophelia, you heading back to the dorms?” Harvey asks, running to catch up with me as I push my way through the heavy front doors of Lost Canyon Lodge’s main building.
“I am, yeah.”
It’s been a long crazy day and I’m exhausted, even though it’s only about four in the afternoon. I didn’t sleep well last night, haven’t slept well since that whole thing with Z, to be honest, and the hectic pace of the café today totally tired me out. The last thing I want to do right now is to walk the three miles of trails back to the dorm, but that’s what I get for refusing to drive.
“Do you mind if I catch a ride? My car’s in the shop. Busted alternator.”
“Ooh, bummer.” I’ve dealt with cars enough to know. “Those things aren’t cheap.”
“Tell me about it.” He looks at me expectantly. “So, do you mind giving me a ride?”
“I wouldn’t mind at all, but I’m walking myself. You can keep me company, if you’d like. We can talk about Anthem, if you’ve finished it.”
“I have, actually. But why aren’t you driving? Is something wrong with your car, too?”
Nope. My baby is in tip-top shape. Or at least she was the last time I turned her on. Which was just about two weeks ago, now that I think about it. The day I got here and got settled into the dorms. For all I know, she could be a holy-shit-what-have-you-done-to-me mess by now. She did spend her whole life in New Orleans before this. Utah’s probably a huge shock for the poor thing.
I don’t say any of this to Harvey, though. I don’t want to have to explain what I barely understand myself. So instead I just tell him, “I felt like walking this morning. Wanted the exercise.”
He looks at me like I’m crazy, but he doesn’t complain as we veer off the main path and onto the winding trail that will take us to the dorms. I’ve taken it twice a day, every day, for the last two weeks, so I’m pretty familiar with it. But still, on days like today, when clouds have moved in, darkening the sky, I can’t help but get freaked out by how ominous it feels. Especially since the path isn’t used very much.
“It’s nice to have company, though,” I tell him with a smile. “Makes the time go faster.”
We spend the next fifteen minutes or so talking about Ayn Rand and Anthem and how messed up it is that a woman who wrote a book like that also participated in the Communist witch hunt of the 1950s.
“It just makes no sense,” I tell him. “If she’s all about how individuality and ego are the only things that matter, how could she have any part in a panel whose sole purpose was to punish people it believed thought differently? I don’t get it.”
“Is that really surprising to you? I thought artists were known for not making sense. Or at least for being completely hypocritical.”
“Not all of them,” I say. “Some of my favorite people in the world are artists of one type or another. They’re really passionate and kind of self-absorbed, but I wouldn’t call them hypocritical.”
I think of Remi, who was amazing at drawing. He didn’t let many people see that side of him—I don’t know if he was afraid it wasn’t tough enough for the neighborhood we lived in or if he just wanted to keep it to himself—but he had well over a dozen sketch pads filled with the most beautiful drawings. When he died, his mother gave all but one of them to me.
They’re one of the few things I actually brought with me from New Orleans. I haven’t been able to open them yet, haven’t been able to look at the dark lines and broad strokes that make up so much of Remi’s sketches, but I can’t let them go, either. Someday, I tell myself. Someday, maybe, it won’t hurt when I try to open them.
“Maybe I’m biased,” Harvey said. “My mom was a singer. She ran out on us when I was little because she had to ‘follow her bliss.’ I don’t think my dad ever got over it.”
“My dad did almost that same thing.”
He glances at me out of the corner of his eye. “I’m sorry.”
“No big deal. I was a baby, so I never got the chance to know him.” I reach over and put a hand on his arm. “But I’m sorry about your mom.”
We’re almost at the end of the woods now, with only about half a mile between us and the warmth of the dorm, and I can’t wait to get there. My fingers and toes are completely numb, and even though I’m wearing a hat and scarf, my ears and nose feel like they might actually be getting frostbitten.
How the hell do people actually live up here? Sure, it’s beautiful, but there are lots of beautiful places in the world where snow doesn’t cover the ground for six months of the year. Like Tahiti. Or Brazil. Or, hell, Ethiopia. It’s getting to the point where I don’t care where I go as long as it’s away from here.
I start to quicken my pace—I can almost feel my flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers—but Harvey stops me with a hand to my elbow.
“What’s wrong?” I ask. For a second, my mind is filled with images of wolves or bobcats or whatever the hell kind of wildlife lives up here. Every time I walk this stupid trail, I have visions of being dragged off into the wilderness by some starving animal with really sharp teeth and a love of human flesh. Overly dramatic, maybe, but I’m a city girl and have no problem admitting it.
“Nothing.” Harvey tugs off one of his gloves, then brushes ice-cold fingers to my face. “Your cheeks are really pink.”
Alarm bells start going off in my head. Still, I shove them back, try to convince myself that I’m wrong. The last thing I need is for Harvey to make a play for me—he’s pretty much the only friend I’ve got here and I don’t want to ruin that by rejecting him.
“It’s the wind,” I tell him, taking a couple of steps back. “I think it’s flayed off the first three layers of my skin.”
He doesn’t get the hint. Instead, he moves a couple of steps closer, strokes his fingers down my hair.
“I need to get going,” I tell him. “I told my mom I’d call her at four-thirty and it’s almost that now.”
“You’re really pretty. You know that, right?” He plunges his hands deeper into my hair—hard enough for my hat to fall off—and his fingers tangle in the strands.
“Harvey.” I put a hand on his chest, try to push him back a little. “This isn’t a good idea.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
For some crazy, godforsaken reason, Z’s face pops into my head at the question. Not Remi, but Z. It freaks me out so much that I end up shoving Harvey away, hard—and nearly losing a chunk of my hair in the process.
“Ow!” My hand goes to the sore spot where he pulled my hair. “What the hell was that for?”
“Why’d you push me away like that?” Suddenly he’s even closer than before. And this time the closeness doesn’t seem nearly as innocuous as it did a couple of minutes ago. “I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
“I know. It’s just—” I start to tell him about Remi, but I never talk about him. Never. And I’m not going to start now just to make some guy who has definitely overstepped his bounds feel better.
“What? I’m not good enough for you because I’m a dishwasher?”
“I never said that,” I tell him, even as I start to back away from him. The alarm bells have become full-fledged shrieks and whistles, along with a get-the-hell-out-of-there-girl warning that I have no intention of ignoring. “I thought we were friends.”
“What if I don’t want to be your friend?” He grabs my arms, hauls me in closer to him. “What if I want to be more?”
Shit. This isn’t going to end well. I can tell already. I try to pull away from him, but he tightens his grip until his fingers are digging into my arms hard enough to cause pain.
“Let me go, Harvey.” I pull harder, wrenching my arms from his grasp, then stumble back and nearly fall flat on my ass, thanks to the snow. “I have to get back to my room. I’ve got to make that phone call.”